Texas Tech and TCU both sit at a crossroads of sorts, both sitting at 4-5 and looking for a turning point win to get closer to bowl eligibility. To get an idea who might come out on top, we reached out to Jeramey Gillilan of Viva the Matadors to talk Matt Wells, Red Raider QB lineage, and what we can expect from an 11:00am crowd in Lubbock.
Frogs O’ War: Year one of the Matt Wells era seems to have had some mixed results. Tech has won some games they should have lost and lost some games they should have won. Do you feel that Hocutt made the right hire?
Jeramey Gillilan: Straight up: yes, I feel confident in Hocutt’s abilities to hire good coaches. There are a number of fans who are visibly upset with Wells’ production in the first year, but these are also the fans that were visibly upset with Tim Tadlock (baseball coach) and Chris Beard (needs now introduction now). I think, as with any hire, the first year is a difficult thing. I don’t care if you have all the right pieces -which you probably don’t, otherwise the other coach wouldn’t have been fired- because the nature of change is that there is a moment of regression. It’s Matt Wells responsibility to come in, learn the conference, build a program, and respond accordingly year after year. It’s the responsibility of the fans to be fans of their school and the person the school puts faith in. There’s no world that it is acceptable for people with zero professional credit regarding collegiate athletics to call for a persons job in the first year of their new tenure.
Again simply put: yeah.
FOW: There’s obviously a big culture change between Kingsbury and Wells. What has the first year coach done in Lubbock that gives you hope going forward?
JG: There are a number of changes between those two regimes, but I want to hone in briefly on three important pieces for Tech going forward. First, recruiting. It’s no secret now that Kingsbury held zero to zero interest in putting effort towards recruiting to Tech, which does nothing to building a program. Wells has gone above and beyond in recruiting athletes that otherwise would overlook Tech. Second, penalties. Kingsbury, again, would harp on limiting the penalties and yet we would consistently be one of the most penalized teams on the field. That leaked off the field as well with a number of disciplinary issues. Wells has done a lot to hold athletes accountable both on and off the field and that’s been refreshing. Third and lastly, culture. Wells has put a lot of effort into engaging the fanbase similar to how Chris Beard has. Kingsbury was noticeably cold with reporters, mitigated which of his athletes spoke to the press, and hardly showed up outside of the football facilities. Wells is honest and upfront with reporters, allows even his freshmen to speak for themselves (illustrating his faith in the character of the program), and has been working tirelessly to appear all over campus in a variety of means.
FOW: Alan Bowman is going to sit the rest of the season and take a medical redshirt, the second year in a row he hasn’t been able to finish a campaign. Can he be the next great Tech QB, and what is Jett Duffey’s ceiling down the stretch?
JG: Anybody can come in and be the next great Tech QB, just look at the tree of people that have been at the program over the past 5-10 years. I think for Bowman it’s a question of is he going to be able to outperform McIvor, Duffey, and soon to be Behren Morton (second highest ranked QB recruit for Tech behind Graham Harrell). I think there’s and element of Bowman’s game that shows undeniable skill and athleticism, but he’s also played a majority of his games against teams we’re supposed to beat. Then we have Duffey. I personally believe Duffey’s ceiling is as high as he wants it to be. Coming into this year nobody gave Duffey a chance in hell to start; but as fate would have it he’s started for us since Bowman went down *again*. In that time Duffey has near 68% completion rating, 10 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. He has, in fact, the longest streak of completed passes without an interception in the league. So that adjustment from his sophomore to junior season alone proves to me that he’s a good quarterback who puts in the work and reaps fruit from it.
My hot take: if Duffey doesn’t transfer over the offseason that means he’s gunning for the starting position next season and expects to have it.
FOW: This offensive system seems a bit different than what we are used to out in West Texas -- what do the Red Raiders do best on that side of the ball and how do you expect them to attack Gary Patterson’s defense Saturday?
JG: Our rushing game has given opponents fits this year. Texas Tech is/was deep at the running back position with SaRodorick “sweet feet” Thompson, Tazhawn Henry, and Utah transfer Armand Shyne (out for the season). Wells promised at the beginning of the year that Texas Tech will run the ball because you have to run well to win games - and where we’ve won games it’s been because of the success of our run game.
On Saturday we’re going against probably the best defense we’ll face all year. The 4-2-5 scheme is one of my favorites in football - just not when we have to beat it. David Yost absolutely has to be courageous this game and not fall into the “death by 1000000 paper cuts” tactic of screen after screen. Against West Virginia we saw a lot more passes downfield, so Tech needs to establish the run game at least enough to open up the mid-ranged passing. I think we have the athletes to beat TCU throughout the middle of the field between the 4 and 5 of the defensive scheme, but unless we take shots at that area we’re not going to see much success. Some guys at VTM think utilizing our two tight ends will help create success, so hopefully we get them rotated into the gameplay as well.
FOW: Let’s talk about the Tech D. The rush defense has been pretty decent but the pass defense is at the bottom of the conference. Good for you, so is the TCU pass offense. Do you expect the Red Raiders to be able to do enough to slow down a TCU offense that has been not good? What names should we know on that side of the ball?
JG: I love our front seven. The defensive line and the linebackers are ferocious against running teams, and that’s refreshing! But now we have to address that we’ve got some of the best ball-hawks in the nation but zero talent at stopping the deep ball. Seriously, what the hell?
On our preview podcast, we settled on the reality that in order to suppress TCU’s effectiveness in the passing game we are going to have to get pressure on Max Duggan all game. That starts on the line with Eli Howard and Broderick Washington. Howard has a lot of strength behind his speed around the edge and has pressured QBs all year (besides Jalen Hurts *shakes fist*). Washington is a massive human being with an even more impressive ability to move offensive linemen at will. What really gets our pressure going though is the hellacious duo of Jordyn Brooks and Riko Jeffers behind the line. Jordyn Brooks makes the case for being the best linebacker in the nation every week. Every. Week. You will see him make big plays. Then Riko Jeffers is another linebacker that has a don’t-quit-until-the-whistle kind of engine. They compliment each other very well. I am very excited to see Jordyn Brooks against Sewo Olonilua.
I guess if I have to talk about our backs you can’t avoid Douglas Coleman III. He leads the country in interceptions by a fair margin and will have at least one this game - he’s just that good. Adrian Frye has been quiet this year but was the best CB in the conference last year so the potential is there. The rest of them are a crapshoot but Demarcus Fields also likes to create turnovers.
FOW: Lubbock has been notoriously one of the hardest places to play in the conference, but a couple of subpar years (and the emergence of one of the country’s best basketball programs) seem to have taken the shine off of football. What kind of environment do you expect Saturday at 11:00am?
JG: Since we won last weekend and we’re two games away from bowl eligibility (and two games left at home), I expect the crowd to be about 65-75% at kickoff. The difficult crowd to draw are the students because for SoMe ReAsOn they don’t do 11am kickoffs well, and our team has been so wishy-washy that they just don’t feel excited for the games.
FOW: For Tech to win, _________________ has to have a big game.
Broke: Jett Duffey
Woke: SaRodorick Thompson/Tazhawn Henry
FOW: For TCU to win, they will have done ________________________ well.
JG: The deep ball, creating/limiting turnovers, having majority time of possession. There’s plenty of weaknesses to our game, just pick one haha.
FOW: What’s your prediction and how do we get there?
JG: I’m really learning to hate this question because no matter how much smart I try to put in my answer, I get it wrong. I like another lower-scoring game like the one last year that Tech edged out. Give me Texas Tech to win at home against Max Duggan’s freshman mistakes, 24-17
Thanks to Jeramy for answering some questions for us and helping us get ready for game day.